Emotions always run high when the Darien and New Canaan girls lacrosse teams clash.
In their latest game, there was added motivation for the Blue Wave after senior co-captain Nicole Humphrey suffered a season-ending injury during a loss at Manhasset (N.Y.) on Thursday.
With juniors Sarah Jaques and Ashley Humphrey leading the attack, No. 1 Darien edged No. 2 New Canaan, 11-10, in a rivalry thriller Saturday at Dunning Field.
It was an emotional win for the Blue Wave.
“Nicole’s not only an insane player, but she’s also a captain and a leader,” said Jaques, who scored a game-best five goals. “The other captains did a really good job of stepping up and making sure we pulled out this win for Nicole. We had the mentality that this is for our captain and this is for our teammate.”
The win also gave Darien (10-2) a measure of revenge for last year’s 12-11 loss to New Canaan in the CIAC Class L semifinals. This time around, it was another one-goal game, but the Wave came away on top after a tough, back-and-forth battle.
“This is why we have our out-of-state schedule,” Darien head coach Lisa Lindley said. “We’ve had two games (Eastport-South Manor and Manhasset) where we lost by one goal and we were right in those games. So in this situation, we’re not panicking. We know we can win a game like this and that is why those games help us in the long run.”
Although New Canaan (9-3), which knocked off No. 3 Wilton last Tuesday, trailed for the entire second half, it was never out of the game. The Rams even had a chance to tie the score in the closing moments, but couldn’t get a final shot off before the buzzer after the ball bounced around through the midfield.
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“I was proud of the way my kids fought,” New Canaan head coach Kristin Woods said. “They played hard to the last whistle and that’s all I can ask for every game. It was a great game. They played great, Darien did a good job, we did a good job, and on any given day.”
Darien’s Kit Arrix, who had two goals, scored the opening tally in the first minute, but New Canaan’s defense then kept the Blue Wave off the board for nearly 19 minutes.
That allowed the Rams to go on a three-goal run to gain the lead at 3-1. McKenna Harden started that roll, with Jane Charlton scoring the next two goals. Both players finished with hat tricks.
The momentum shifted late in the half when New Canaan senior co-captain Caroline Schuh was handed a yellow card for body contact, giving the Wave a two-minute advantage.
The Blue Wave responded with a 4-0 run to gain a 5-3 lead. Maddie Joyce started that roll, with Jacques netting the next three. Ashley Humphrey assisted on three of those goals.
“We have a playset that we run for those situations and we practice a lot,” Lindley said. “I don’t think we’ve ever scored four goals on a man-up, but the key to that was the draw. Maggie Ramsay did a great job today getting the draws.”
“They went on a four-goal run which hurt big time because we had a lot of momentum and a lot of stuff going for us,” Woods said. “It was a good learning experience for us because it was one of our senior captains who’s a big leader on defense. So other people have to step up and do what she does when she’s in there.”
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McKenna Harden’s second goal broke the slide, but Darien carried a 5-4 lead to halftime.
The two teams traded goals early in the second half before the Wave scored three straight for a 10-6 lead with 8:56 to play.
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The Rams answered. Harden and Charlton scored 23 seconds apart to close the gap to two, a goal by Dillyn Patten made it 10-9 with 4:37 on the clock.
Jaques then hit the pipe on a free-position shot, but the ball came out to senior co-captain Katie Elders, who scored on the put-back for an 11-9 Darien lead.
The Rams again closed to within one when Hollis Mulry scored on a free position with 55.5 seconds remaining, but New Canaan wasn’t able to get another shot on net as the Wave secured the win.
“That’s what happens in these games — there’s momentum shifts,” Woods said. “We always say don’t let a team score three or four in a row. You’ve got to answer that and stop that momentum, so it hurt when we were (a) man-down.”
While the Wave was missing one of their captains, it created some opportunities for other players to step up.
“Everyone is devastated that Nicole has suffered a season-ending injury,” Lindley said. “Now it’s time for people to pick up the slack. She’s arguably our best player and she goes down, and today, I saw some kids given an opportunity and they took advantage of it.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sarah Jaques, Darien. Jaques had a game-high five goals to lead the Blue Wave scoring, with three of those coming in succession to give Darien a 5-3 lead in the first half.
“I remember when I was younger, we’d come to the Darien-New Canaan games and it’s inspiring for the whole town. This is what you’re going up against, this is what you play for and this is what our town represents.” — Darien junior Sarah Jaques.
DARIEN 11, NEW CANAAN 10
DARIEN 5 6 — 11
NEW CANAAN 4 6 — 10
Scoring: Darien: Sarah Jaques 5g; Ashley Humphrey 4a; Kit Arrix 2g; Maddie Joyce 2g; Jordan Vaught 1g; Katie Elders 1g; Shea van den Broek 1a; New Canaan: Jane Charlton 3g, 1a; McKenna Harden 3g; Campbell Connors 1g, 1a; Kaleigh Harden 1g; Dillyn Patten 1g; Hollis Mulry 1g; Kendall Patten 1a; Goalies: Darien: Shea Dolce 10 saves; New Canaan: Caroline O’Dea 9 saves
Records: Darien 10-2 overall, 7-0 FCIAC; New Canaan 9-3, 6-1